In July 2012, Fiserv Inc. unveiled a mobile application to accompany its award-winning UChoose Rewards program. The app, which functions on Apple Inc. mobile devices and hand-held devices using Google Inc.'s Android operating system, is offered primarily to debit cardholders of financial institutions (FIs) participating in Fiserv's rewards program.
The app allows smart phone users to redeem rewards points for in-store purchases. As cardholders spend using bankcards, they earn points. They then use those points to purchase goods and services from Fiserv's rewards catalog, which contains over 1 million items. The app takes advantage of cameras on mobile devices. Using the cameras, consumers scan in-store universal product codes; the app then searches the catalog to find if those items are available.
"So even if you're standing in a Macy's and you're looking at a blanket, if you scan that item and it happens to be in our catalog, you can choose to redeem for that item right then," said Holly Krest, Senior Vice President of Loyalty Solutions at Fiserv.
Another feature of the app gives users the option of having Best Buy Co. Inc. store purchases mailed to them or be available for pickup at the user's store of choice. Based on the smart phone's GPS location, the app provides the closest store for pick-up. "You say, 'I want to pick it up at 123 Main Street in Anytown USA,' and within about 20 to 30 minutes, you get an email back confirming that your item is ready for pickup," Krest said.
The in-store pickup feature plays into consumers' desire for immediate gratification, according to Krest. Also, since shipping costs are calculated into the amount of rewards points used when Best Buy purchases are shipped, cardholders who choose in-store pickups use fewer points, which spurs customer satisfaction, Krest said.
The UChoose Rewards app is tailored to give FIs control and flexibility over how programs are configured. FIs decide if rewards are available on all transactions or function only with PIN debit or signature debit purchases, for example. FIs also control the points-per-dollar spent ratio, which is typically one-to-one, Krest noted.
FIs can also choose between three types of rewards programs: merchant-funded, issuer-funded or blended programs. Krest said over 94 percent of its FI partners choose the blended program.
"If you're shopping someplace where the merchant is a part of our program, you're going to earn points from that merchant, as well as points from the issuer," she noted. "If you're shopping at a merchant that isn't part of the program, then you get only the issuer points."
Krest said over 15,000 merchants nationwide are taking part in UChoose Rewards. "Certainly what merchants are looking for is not to have their same customers doing the same business that they would have gotten anyway," she said.
"So what they're looking for is either their same customers doing more, or really trying to generate incremental [new] business."
Fiserv's rollout concerns only the "burn" (redemption) portion of the app; the "earn" part will be available in late October 2012, once Apple and Google load it into their app stores, Krest said. She chalked up the staggered launch to a speed-to-market decision.
"Our partner was ready to go," she said. "And we felt like that made a lot of sense for people to redeem on the fly and be able to check their account to be able to see what was in the catalog. We chose not to wait and try and launch them together."
In fact, the speed of rewards is crucial to a program's success, Krest said. It's hard to imagine a more immediate delivery system than mobile devices. "I want my cardholders earning points quickly and being able to redeem quickly because that's where the loyalty comes in," she noted.
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